As-Salt - The Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality
Built on three closely-spaced hills in the Balqa highland of west-central Jordan, the city of As-Salt, was an important trading link between the eastern desert and the west. During the last 60 years of the Ottoman period, the region prospered from the arrival and settlement of merchants from Nablus, Syria, and Lebanon who made their fortunes in trade, banking, and farming. This prosperity attracted skilled craftsmen from different parts of the region who worked on transforming the modest rural settlement into a thriving town with a distinctive layout and an architecture characterized by large public buildings and family residences constructed of local yellow limestone. The site’s urban core includes approximately 650 significant historic buildings exhibiting a blend of European Art Nouveau and Neo-Colonial styles combined with local traditions. The city’s non-segregated development expresses tolerance between Muslims and Christians who developed traditions of hospitality evidenced in Madafas (guest houses, known as Dawaween) and the social welfare system known as Takaful Ijtimai’. These tangible and intangible aspects emerged through a melding of rural traditions and bourgeois merchants’ and tradespeople’s practices during the Golden Age of As-Salt’s development between 1860s to 1920s.
Outstanding Universal Value
The city of As-Salt became the capital of Transjordan and a thriving trade centre during the late Ottoman period, experiencing a ‘Golden Age’ between the 1860s and the 1920s. The effects of the Ottoman ‘Tanzimat’ reforms brought enhanced security, administrative structures and trade. As-Salt became central to trade networks between the eastern steppe and the west, and grew in wealth through the arrival and settlement of merchants from Nablus, Syria, and Lebanon who made their fortunes on trade, banking, and farming. This prosperity attracted skilled craftsmen and As-Salt was transformed from a modest rural settlement into a thriving town with a distinctive townscape and architecture.
The city features large public buildings and private residences characterised by a central hallway and three bays, constructed of yellow limestone. These demonstrate a mix of vernacular and modern architectural influences, and skilful craftsmanship. Adapted to the steep folded topography, the urban morphology of the historic urban core is characterised by network of interlinked stairways, alleyways, public squares and spaces, and streets. The result is a dense urban fabric connecting the city’s resident neighbourhoods with public spaces and streets. These tangible characteristics have shaped the urban cultures of the city, including distinctive cultural traditions of tolerance between people of different cultural groups and religions. Muslim and Christian communities share many traditions, demonstrated by a lack of physical segregation between them. These traditions of hospitality are understood to reflect a fusion of local cultures and the incoming bourgeois traders during the ‘Golden Age’ of As-Salt’s development and include the social welfare system known as Takaful Ijtimai’ and the provision of hospitality in Madafas (guest houses, known locally as Dawaween).
The cultures of tolerance, hospitality, and social welfare practiced by the Bedouin peoples of the region were common throughout the area and have contributed to the construction of a modern Trans-Jordanian identity.